Interview with Carol Salloum, Owner & Manager of Almond Bar

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13th May marks International Hummus Day! Did you know that the word ‘hummus’ literally means chickpeas in Arabic? 

The Team at Caitre’d think there’s no better way than to to celebrate International Hummus Day than to shine a spotlight on one of our longest-standing caterers, Almond Bar.

Almond Bar is a restaurant located at 379 Liverpool Street, in Darlinghurst, NSW, run by sister duo, Carol and Sharon Solloum, with a helping hand from their parents.

Previously a high school mathematics teacher, Carol made her dream of owning her own business a reality. Following almost 4 years of meticulous research and preparation, Almond Bar first opened its doors in 2007.

The restaurant has won a string of awards over the years, including being 3 times winners of the I Love FOOD Awards as Australia’s Favourite Middle Eastern.

Carol shares with us the magic behind Almond Bar, some of her loved recipes and top business tips:

Q. What sparked the dream to open up a restaurant? I was always watching how Middle Eastern food was not respected and was just seen as the end of a big night kebab, hummus and tabouleh. I wanted to educate society and make sure everyone understood the value of Middle Eastern cuisine. Mum was a great cook and so was Sharon, so I asked them to be involved.

Q. Tell us about the food and flavours of the Middle Eastern dishes you serve? We serve both traditional & modern Middle Eastern dishes. We try to use as much of the traditional ingredients as possible in the modern dishes. We want to stay true to the flavours of our food. A lot of the time we test that on our parents and see what they think. Other times we just believe the combinations work well. We like our customers to get to choose whether they want traditional, modern or both.

Q. Does your hummus recipe follow a traditional recipe, or have you added a twist? It’s very traditional, it’s the one our Mum made… chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon, water and salt. We soak the chickpeas over night, cook them and grind them down. Mum does all of that and it’s made from scratch. We only use fresh chickpeas. You can definitely taste the difference between canned chickpea hummus and one that’s made from scratch. We do have a chilli hummus, which is our own twist, and people love that one, as it gives a bit of a kick.

Q. If I was organising a networking event for 50+ people what would you recommend I order and why? Our finger food, the most popular being the sambusic, the homemade pastry and inside there’s lamb, pine nuts and onion. The pastry itself is very popular and very tasty. It’s got an ingredient in it called Mahleb (an aromatic spice) which gives it a beautiful flavour. Falafel and vegetarian vine leaves are great people-pleasers too. The vine leaves are actually grown in Mum & Dad’s backyard and Mum makes those herself. For the meat eaters, mini lamb skewers and chicken skewers are very tasty, tender and easy-to-eat so they work well for people standing up and moving around. It’s different to the usual canapés at functions. The food tastes as if you’re sitting in a restaurant even though you’re not.

Q. What are the best lessons you’ve learnt that you are able to share with others who have their own business? To be resilient, understand that you’re not going to make everyone happy and do what you can. Offer the best thing you could offer and go from there. Just know you’ve done your best.

We used to panic in quiet periods, but now we just know that it’s a part of the pattern and flow of having a business.

At the end of the day, if you have good staff and you’re good to your staff, reap the benefits of that. We’ve been very, very lucky with our staff and we feel blessed.

Q. Can you tell us about the Syrian refugee program that you’ve begun? The project is called Ahlan, which means “Welcome” in Arabic. Our job is to help transition, train and place Syrian refugees who either have hospitality experience or are interested in hospitality.

Q. What are you most proud of in your career? There are a lot of things we’re proud of, but this industry is a very tough industry. What we’re most proud of is that neither of us came from hospitality and that we have accomplished what we set out to achieve. We’re able to just be genuinely hospitable. In our culture hospitality is huge, if someone turns up at your home unannounced, you make them feel part of the family… you offer food, servings of drinks and they are made to feel welcome. This is what we try to do in our restaurant.

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Feeling inspired to bring the award-winning taste of Almond Bar in-house for your next corporate event or function? Click here for their online menu. Need further recommendations. We’re “at your service” – send us an enquiry.

Almond Bar also welcomes you to their restaurant. An evening meal on Mother’s Day, 14th May, (in case you don’t already have it in the diary) could be a perfect excuse you need. Every Mum that visits that day will be given a small jar of their signature almonds.

Almond Bar is also open for breakfast every first Sunday of each month (booking is recommended).

Last but not least, look out for the Big Syrian BBQ that’s next due to be hosted in September & October. Caitre’d will keep you informed about the dates – perfect for a team building outing if you’re looking for something off-site.

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